Sunday, January 11, 2015

X-MEN: INFERNO PROLOGUE

Hardcover, 2014. Collects 1988's X-FACTOR #27 - 32, X-FACTOR ANNUAL #3, UNCANNY X-MEN #228 - 238, UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #12, NEW MUTANTS #62 - 70, NEW MUTANTS ANNUAL #4, and material from MARVEL AGE ANNUAL #4 and MARVEL FANFARE #40.

As noted in December's THE UNBOXING, I recently acquired Marvel's newly released X-MEN: INFERNO PROLOGUE hardcover volume. This book fills a long-present gap in Marvel's collections of the UNCANNY X-MEN series and its related titles. The full details are on my X-MEN COLLECTED EDITIONS page, but the short of is that, thanks to this book bringing us issues 228 - 238, we now have the entirety of UNCANNY X-MEN, issues 220 through 306, collected in oversize hardcover format (and issues 220 - 337 collected in some format or another, between oversize and standard size hardcovers and trade paperbacks!).

But that's not all -- INFERNO PROLOGUE also brings us X-FACTOR issues 27 - 32, NEW MUTANTS issues 62 - 70, plus a few assorted annuals. That means, for those keeping track, via previous books plus this one, we now have X-FACTOR 19 - 40 in oversize hardcover and NEW MUTANTS 55 - 73 in the same format (in fact, thanks again to various trade paperbacks and other collections, most notably the NEW MUTANTS CLASSIC series, every issue of that title is collected save for issues 74 - 85 -- not bad!).

So for completists, the issues contained in this book are greatly appreciated. But what about the quality of the material and the volume itself?


Well for the most part, it's hard to complain. Marvel figured out a long time ago how to do collected editions right, and they rarely disappoint in that arena. The issues are presented in what has been deemed by the powers-that-be to be the best chronological reading order, so we begin with some X-FACTOR installments, followed by a couple UNCANNY X-MENs, a large chunk of NEW MUTANTS, more UNCANNY, the three series' segments of the "Evolutionary War" annual crossover event, then we repeat the first cycle with more X-FACTOR, UNCANNY, and NEW MUTANTS in that order. I must admit that I've never read the X-FACTOR and NEW MUTANTS issues contained in this book, written by Louise Simonson and illustrated by Walter Simonson and Bret Blevins, respectively, but a cursory flip-through reveals some wonderful art by both men, which looks especially nice blown up to oversize proportions.


The UNCANNY X-MEN issues, on the other hand, I'm much more familiar with. Written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Marc Silvestri and Rick Leonardi, these stories feature the X-Men moving into their Australian Outback home and battling the Reavers, followed by a return engagement from classic X-villains the Brood and then the introduction of Genosha, one of the more important locales in the series' history. I've gone on record as not being a big fan of the "Outback Era", but nonetheless I'm happy to count these issues in my collection. Once again, the blown-up size serves Silvestri's and Leonardi's artwork extremely well. I recall that the original comics looked absolutely horrendous thanks to the printing processes of the time, so having them restored here is a treat.


Besides the three "Evolutionary War" annuals, the book also contains a number of bonus features including the newly-recolored cover artwork without any trade dress, some pages of original art at a reduced size, a Storm solo story from MARVEL FANFARE #40 and a preview of Wolverine's then-upcoming series from MARVEL AGE. We also have a "Mutant Report" column from MARVEL AGE #69, several house ads from the era, and the covers of previous collected editions which contained portions of this material. As I said, Marvel understands how to do a collected edition right. They painstakingly research every possible item for inclusion and squeeze as many of those scraps as they can into these books. These volumes set the standard by which all others should be judged.


If I had to name a single complaint about this book, it would simply be that there is, perhaps, just a bit too much material -- for me, anyway. I already own the EVOLUTIONARY WAR OMNIBUS, so the annuals contained herein are already in my collected edition library (though the Omnibus contained only the main story from these annuals, so this is the first time the backups have been collected, at least). Likewise, the original Genosha storyline already found its way into the X-TINCTION AGENDA hardcover a few years ago, serving a prologue to that crossover, so its inclusion here seems extraneous. But I fully understand that not everyone has those other two books, so the presence of these issues here doesn't exactly rankle me. But, for my own preference, I would have been just as happy to see them omitted in favor of the other books.

Otherwise, this is a great volume. It's perhaps overpriced at $125 MSRP for 824 pages -- a few years ago, such a book would most likely have listed for $75 to $100 -- but the paper is slick and glossy, the binding is sewn and allows the book to open flat to any page with minimal gutter loss, the reproduction is beautiful, and it's crammed with bonus content. INFERNO PROLOGUE is another quality offering from Marvel's collected editions department, and, if you can get past the sticker shock, it's a worthy addition to any X-Men library.

Available now at Amazon.com:
X-MEN: INFERNO PROLOGUE

Long out of print but well worth it if you can find them for a reasonable price:
X-MEN: INFERNO | X-MEN: INFERNO CROSSOVERS

2 comments:

  1. Like you, I remain impressed at how Marvel is at reprinting stuff. Even the Epic Collections have started to include some of the types of bonus material you mention here, which makes it all the easier for me to rationalize picking up reprints of stuff I already own in one format or another.

    And you're dead right about how great the art looks, too. I recently picked up the first Wolverine Epic collection, and even without it being blown up, just flipping through it I found myself more drawn to the art than I had been when I'd *just* read the issues a few weeks/months earlier for my X-amination posts.

    If the Epic collections do indeed make it this far, I'm especially excited to see what Leonardi's restored art from the Outback Era looks like.

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    1. Yeah, I don't know what it is, but comics from the mid- to late eighties seem extremely shoddy in their printing and even their paper stock. I've heard about this "flexographic" process they used back then, but for some reason I thought it was earlier in the eighties.

      At any rate, the UNCANNY issues from the Outback Era have always looked terrible to me because of this. It's amazing what proper restoration and paper does for this stuff. It's like seeing it with new eyes, and I didn't even have to visit Mojo and Spiral to get them.

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